How to Style Coffee Tables

Whether it's a coffee table, console table, or entryway table, these pieces often serve multiple purposes in your home. They offer a functional surface to set things on and can also provide you with a little bit of storage. 

You may often see perfectly styled tables on Pinterest, but find it difficult to obtain the look yourself. We're going to break down some of the nitty gritty of styling beautiful, functional surfaces in your home. 


Basic Principles

1. Create layers

Creating layers by varying height and mixing in different materials creates depth and interest. If you feel stuck, using the rule of three is always safe. The human eye finds odd numbers visually attractive. So arranging the objects on your coffee table so you have three groupings, or any odd number, of varying heights is a great place to start. 

If you find that your pieces are too similar in height, you can stack items on top of books to create more height.

Additionally, try to vary the materials that you are arranging together. Mixing materials like: ceramics, metals, wood, candles, books, and florals keep it interesting and keep the look very organic.

2. Proportion

It is always important to consider scale and proportion when decorating. Obviously, a larger coffee table can accommodate pieces of greater size and number than a smaller table. 

If you have a small coffee table, you may consider putting a tray in the center and filling it with a vase or a candle (or both!). This tray can also double as an attractive place to keep television remotes handy. 

Very large coffee tables might have you feeling like your table is barren. Larger coffee tables can easily accommodate large bowls and vases. You can fill them with florals or vase filler to add layers and create interest. Additionally, a simple stack of two or three books can balance out a large coffee table so that it doesn't feel so empty. If your coffee table is very large, you may find that you like the look with more than one stack of books. 

Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table
Now that we've covered some of the basics of arranging items, there two directions we can take from here. You can opt for a more open look, meaning that you might just have one single grouping in the center of the table. Or, you can create a fuller look by dividing your table into different sections. The number of sections will depend on the shape and size of your coffee table. We'll get into that in a minute. 


In the photo above, you can see that our Irene Wooden Bowl filled with greenery and ornaments creates a single grouping in the center of this coffee table. This still adds visual interest while giving you a lot of usable space on the table. 


Remember the rule of three mentioned earlier? Below you can see that we still have a single grouping in the center of our coffee table. But, this time our single grouping is made up of a number of pieces to a create a "centerpiece", or a vignette, that is a little bit more dynamic and interesting.


Another tip when creating arrangements with multiple objects is to create shapes with your objects. Here we have what is known as a visual triangle.


Wild Oats Interiors Blog how to style a coffee table   Wild Oats Interiors Blog how to style a coffee table
Adding greenery or florals to your vases, like we have done here with our Bellona vase, makes your space come to life. The Mila Candle Bowl has been elevated on a stack of books to create more variation in height. The lowest point in our triangle is the Sandar basket, which is perfect for corralling small objects such as remotes and coasters, but can also be filled with small decorative objects.
Dividing Your Table into Sections
If you feel a little bit lost, it can be useful to break up table into sections. The number of sections will depend on the shape and size of your coffee table. Obviously, larger tables can be broken up into more sections. Very small tables may not be able to be sectioned off at all and must utilize a single grouping in the center. Let's take a look at some different ways to mentally divide up the surface space of the table.


 Rectangular Tables
Wild Oats Interiors how to style a coffee table
Rectangular tables can easily be split in two sections. In the photo below, you can see that we've done just that. Magazines were placed under the vase, not to add height, but to create balance due to the width of the tray opposite the vase. 


Wild Oats Interiors Blog how to style a coffee table
By adding a book under the Holiday Mug Candle, we've created a more layered look and added visual interest. Additionally, by putting everything in a decorative tray, like this Chesa tray, it can anchor all your pieces and make them feel more unified. 


Square Tables


If you have a square coffee table, you can divide it into 4 or even 5 sections. A word of warning, with this many sections, you WILL want coffee table books to help you with your styling. And probably several at that. 


Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table  Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table


If you decide to do five sections, it's nice to put something tall in the center, with lower items in the surrounding sections. 


Round Tables


If you happen to have a round coffee table, you can divide it into three sections, making a triangle shape. If your table is large enough, you may even be able to divide it into four or five sections.


Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table   Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table


If you decide to use five zones, it would look similar to a square table with 5 zones as pictured earlier. Placing something tall in the center, like a vase, large piece of pottery, or tall sculpture are all great options for your focal point in the center. 


Your Styling Materials


Now that we've talking about how to combine objects and how to plan out your table, let's talk about what kinds of objects lend themselves to styling coffee tables. 


  • Candles
  • Vases
  • Decorative objects
  • Plants
  • Books
  • Decorative Bowls
  • Trays


The power of bowls and trays cannot be understated. They can really anchor your design. See the example below of a table styled with and without a tray.

 Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table   Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table

Pictured Above: Leena Vase, Holiday Mug Candle, Wooden Fir Tree, Inzali Round Tray

Did you notice the use of the rule of three in the examples above? The styling without the tray also utilized the idea of creating visual triangles. This time, it's an equilateral triangle versus the right triangle we saw earlier.


Wild Oats Interiors Blog How to style a coffee table


There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to styling tables in your home, but this guide can help you when you're feeling stuck. Just like with anything, practice makes perfect! 

If you sometimes feel like you don't have the eye for decorating, I encourage you to practice, practice, practice! The more you rearrange pieces in your home on a regular basis, the more you will develop your eye. Before you know it, you'll be styling your house like a professional! 

Happy decorating!

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